Now that I have emerged from my Ramadan retreat cave, my first thought was to express my gratitude to my Mother, Mary Ellen Bagby (Cornwell). She was the kindest person I have ever known. By Allah, she was a saint. But she was also a tough lady--warm, tender outside with insides of steel. She never complained. I remember I took her to see Saving Private Ryan and that first battle scene blew me away with its gory depiction. I became alarmed that I brought my mother with heart problems to this hair-raising movie. I looked over to her, and she gave a nonchalant, pleasant smile and said something like great. I should have been concerned about my own pounding heart.
She was a white woman who fell in love with a Black man in 1948 in Indiana. To get married they had to move because interracial marriage was outlawed in Indiana. That's why I was born in Cleveland. Her relatives disowned her except for her own mother who was also a very sweet lady.
She became Muslim in 1978 when I was in Cairo studying Arabic. She came over to see Egypt. She met so many wonderful people, and I guess it dawned on her that her crazy son was not so crazy after all. One day I came back to my apartment and she was there in a hijab and long dress, and she said she wanted to take shahadah and become Muslim.